• Conductor rail heating: Heating certain lengths of the conductor rail will help stop ice forming. This prevents trains from drawing power which lead to trains becoming stranded.
Heating is being installed at 34 key locations using a total of 27,000 metres of heating strip. Network Rail expect 85 per cent to be finished before Christmas, and the remainder in place by the end of January. Conductor Rail heating will support the existing 550 points heating strips already in operation across the Sussex region.
• Winter treatment fleet: Seven multi-purpose vehicles will provide enhanced anti-icing capability across the Southern network as opposed to four last year. Network Rail plans to introduce an additional, new ice treatment train, fitted with snow ploughs to clear snow from the running rails and conductor rail. It will have equipment to scrape off ice and apply heated anti-icing fluid on to the conductor rail. This train will be powered by a diesel locomotive and therefore independent of the third (electric) rail and able to operate when electric trains cannot.
• Snow Teams: Dedicated teams of Network Rail engineers will be assigned to known problem areas to clear snow and ice from points and other key equipment. This will allow for a speedier response.
• Southern train modifications: The Class 377 Electrostar trains, which make up more than 70 per cent of Southern’s train fleet, have had improvements made to their ice mode capability. Ice mode allows the train to function when drawing lower levels of power due to ice or snow on the conductor rail. This modification will prompt the driver to switch on ice mode when it senses a certain temperature. This new software also makes it easier to restart trains if they have protectively shut down due to not being able to detect sufficient electrical current.
Plans and equipment are being put in place to de-ice footsteps, train doors and couplers prior to trains entering service and at main terminal stations. Foil blankets are already provided on trains for emergencies.
• Traincare Depot Enhancements:
An external contractor has been appointed to keep the main routes within train maintenance depots clear, including gritting and snow clearance, leaving the engineering teams free to concentrate on keeping trains running without being diverted to snow clearance duties.
In 2011 Southern launched Project Mercury – a major initiative designed to provide timely, relevant, accurate and consistent information to passengers. This includes the installation of a disruption mode on customer information systems at stations so that only trains that are actually running are shown, rather than trains being shown as late and then cancelled.